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expanding on the idea killer: the legal department September 30, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Stunning Example of Synergy, Experiences.
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This is the first of three posts on idea killers, based on pictures I posted on September 28.

Y’know what the best part is about the legal department killing your idea? That they usually get to it before you do too much work, so you have less to scrap.


I’m not going to say that legal departments are all bad, because they’re not. In fact, they’re more like unions — they defend you (and your company) from all things bad: clients that think you’ve reneged on contracts or people who accuse you of slander and libel because your company has money. Unfortunately, they’re more likely to shoot down your awesome ideas because you want to do groundbreaking things that involve untested technologies or collaboration with the competition, and we can’t have that.

Legal’s job is also to make sure no one steals your ideas. That is, they put such tight locks on everything you do that not only can you not talk about them to other people in your network of fellow experts, but if anyone else comes up with the same idea, they will instantly shoot yours down so your own company isn’t accused of theft.

It’s tough to be in the legal department. It’s even tougher to be their victim.

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elevator etiquette September 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences.
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As part of the big reorg, I’m now on a floor that requires* me to take an elevator to get to my cube. Fortunately, there are three elevators to choose from, but once you get on, what do you do?

CC-licensed photo by Ambrose Little.

CC-licensed photo by Ambrose Little.

Now, I’m not talking about simple courtesies like avoiding the passage of gas or squeezing in when there’s clearly no room for you. I’m talking about the situations no one writes about.

Which is why I’m writing about them.

Proper Stacking Of People. This is a bigger issue in bigger buildings, but even here, where there are ten floors (not all of which we use; some we rent out), if everyone starts work at 9 a.m. it can get a little busy in the elevators. Generally when you get in you move to the back or the sides. The first person in gets the choice of pressing all the buttons or selecting a floor, stepping aside, and letting others choose their own floors. Yesterday morning, though, I was the last person on (there ended up being seven of us), and the buttons for 4, 5, 7, and 8 were all pressed.

First we stopped at 3, because someone on 3 had called for an up-elevator. Unfortunately he had a large cart, so we couldn’t fit him in. Then, up to 4, where I stepped out of the elevator to let people past. Then I got back on, but because everyone else shifted to the back, I was stuck in front again. So I had to repeat the whole thing on 5 before finally getting off at 7 and letting the last person ride up to 8.

Did I do the right thing? Should I have spoken up, said “I’m getting off at 7; does anyone want to step ahead of me?” I don’t really know, and no one complained, so I guess it was okay, but I still felt a little weird. Plus, because I was carrying my backpack, I couldn’t turn to face the doors; I had to stare at the woman pressing the buttons. Which brings me to the next point.

Face Front When Possible. I’ve read “how to disrupt office drones” forwards for more than ten years about facing the back of the elevator, just to throw other people in the office out of whack. But I have to work with these people every day. I don’t know everyone yet; what if I unnerve an executive?

Still, I say “when possible” because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes — as with yesterday — I couldn’t face front because of the size of my bag and the relative tetris of other people in the elevator. The woman at the buttons didn’t look too unnerved, which was nice.

Your Head Should Do What It Does At The Urinal. Okay, this one might be a little foreign to women who haven’t invaded men’s rooms at concerts or sporting events, but guys know that, no matter what, you never turn your head while peeing standing up. You look up, you look straight ahead, or you look down. That’s it. The same should be done on elevators: look up (at the floor indicator), look straight ahead (at other people’s heads or your reflection in the doors), or look down (at your phone or the floor). As a confirmed appreciator of female beauty, that last one can be very enjoyable depending upon which direction you’re facing.

Greet Your Co-Workers. Or even if they’re not your co-workers; even if you work in a 30-story building and have no idea who these people are, you need to be polite and friendly. You’re going to spend 30 to 300 seconds in close proximity; say good morning, and if someone offers polite conversation, take part. But don’t just step in and assume the position. If you really want to avoid conversation, have your phone out and when you’re in place and have said good morning, look at your phone and do something, even if it’s pretending to read e-mail.

Assess The Button Situation Quickly. You’re likely to only have about a second to decide what to do if someone else is standing near the buttons. My personal preference is this: if someone else is standing near the buttons, ask him or her to press the button for your floor. It avoids inadvertent brushes against body parts that you may not want to touch — or that you may want very much to touch but don’t want to get fired for touching. Better safe.

Don’t Press If Your Hands Are Busy. If your hands are full or you’re using your phone, don’t monopolize the buttons. Don’t even stand near them. Let someone who’s not busy handle it and save everyone on the elevator a little trouble.

No Farting. Seriously. Just don’t. Not even if you’re alone.

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* Okay, not requires, but I can’t see myself walking up and down seven flights a day, not with my back and leg issues. One or two, sure, but not seven. My old office was on the first floor.

idea killer 3: marketing manager September 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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Oh, this one’s the worst. Marketing managers have destroyed my ads, website designs, deployment plans… everything I’ve ever done, they’ve tried to stick their hands into. They’re usually good people (the one I used to work with before the reorg was actually a really great manager); you just don’t want them getting their hands on your work.


idea killer 2: creative client September 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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This happened to me a lot at one of my first jobs — I worked at a radio station, producing ads, and whenever the client wanted to be on the ad (have his/her voice on it), we all tried our best to say “please don’t” because, if you’ve ever heard a client on a radio spot (think Original Mattress Factory or the Shane Company or most automotive “we’re really just a down-home family dealership” ads), you know how terrible they usually sound.


idea killer 1: legal September 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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I’m not quite sure where these images came from — there are no click-through links — so if you know, please comment. I found them on one of the multifarious blogs I read on a daily basis. I’m posting the three best ones today.


This has happened to me on several occasions, and with the advent of social networking and “let’s do this as fast as possible”, one would think it wouldn’t, but legal departments hate social networking. More on that another day.

The Great CorporateSpeak Reorg of 2009 September 25, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences.
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Well, my friends, it’s finally happened: CorporateSpeak’s corporate office has seen the way things are running here and have decided to reorganize.

cc-licensed photo by Zeetz Jones

cc-licensed photo by Zeetz Jones


Okay, first things first: it actually happened a few weeks ago, and I queued up a few posts because I knew I’d be busy getting into the swing of things. Here’s what’s changed:

  1. No More Two-Year-Old. Corporate has decided to move her to another office that needs help. She’s in a completely different branch of the business now. I now no longer see her, except maybe if we pass each other in an airport or something.
  2. Some Employees Transferred. In fact, most of the production people I worked with have been offered the option to move to a different location. Most of them accepted.
  3. Departmental Changes. I’ve been transferred to a different department in a different part of the building. Instead of being a general catch-all web guy for our advertising products, I’ve been shifted to a position that I thought I was taking years ago when I joined the company. That’s right: I’m a full-time developer now, working for our national advertising department.
  4. Teamwork. My new department consists of an overall manager, three managers under her (one of whom is my boss), and then me and the other person in the web development arm of the advertising department. That means I’m part of a team of three developers, all of whom have skills and strengths that actually complement each other. I also have a new boss who, so far, is very capable and very supportive.
  5. Peace and Quiet. I always worked in a cubicle farm. The difference is that now I’m on the advertising/agency team, which means I have a cubicle in a different part of the building, in a pod with five other people, and no one shouts. Everyone wears headphones. The most disruptive anyone’s gotten so far is to curse when something goes wrong, and that’s the head of the art department, so you kind of expect that from him.
  6. Small Raise. It’s not an actual raise, but I’m making a little more money because I’m technically in a new role, and that new role pays more. Yet I find myself working less. Explain that one to me.
  7. Actual Web Development. In addition to my duties for the advertising department, our sub-group is also in charge of building the actual web apps we use, both internally and externally (advertising client-facing). This means more coding, which means more learning. Awesomeness.

There are, however, a few downsides:

  1. Stricter IT Policy. I now no longer have free reign of my PC. It has everything I could possibly need — browsers, developer tools, Adobe CS/4, you name it. I miss having administrator access, but it’s okay.
  2. More Accountability. I actually have to keep track of what I do each day and submit it to my boss. A lot harder to goof off.
  3. New Programming Languages. While I’m capable in both JavaScript and PHP, my real strength is .NET. Well, we don’t use .NET on this side. I spent some time this week reviewing JavaScript, and next week I’m going to take a chunk out of each day to review and/or expand my PHP skills. I guess this isn’t really a downside, except that sometimes I look at the code and I’m like “SCUSE ME WTF IS DIS?”
  4. Hours. My workday starts later, which means I get home later. Also, I can’t work out, because when they reorganized, the gym equipment got moved to a facility in a different state. I’m not quite sure why that happened, but what it means is that I get to sit on the couch in the morning until 7:30 before I have to start getting ready. I can’t afford a gym membership, but maybe the local YMCA has a pool I can use… I’ll have to check into that.
  5. People. Despite their general pain-in-the-ass-itude, I really actually liked the people I was working with. I’m glad none of them were laid off — that was never in the plan, I learned — but I’m going to miss working with them. Still, I work one metropolitan area away; it’s not as if we can’t all still hit a bar or something. And we all have instant messengers.

Overall, though, I can’t complain. (Well, all right, I can always find something to complain about, but you get the idea.) Everything I hated about working at CorporateSpeak has been eliminated or changed, and I’m working with a much better group of people who deal with national clients — and that means everyone has to be better at their jobs and accept much less bullshit.

And believe me, much less bullshit is accepted. Except where appropriate, and I’ll discuss that next week sometime.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go do this for a little while:


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“bubble up” September 24, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Definition.
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bubble up
BUB-uhl UP

Not this kind of bubbles. (cc-licensed photo by Mike Babcock)

Not this kind of bubbles. (cc-licensed photo by Mike Babcock)

This was a completely new one to me. I had no idea what it meant until I saw it on a meeting agenda. The item simply read “trouble tickets, bubble up”. Apparently this is a concept the operations department, where I was sitting in on a meeting, uses all the time, because its context was not explained to me in any way.

And, really, it’s kind of a quick, less-serious way to say “push it up the chain to the next level of authority”. In other words, escalate. If a client gives you trouble, let it bubble up to the next level. If a salesperson won’t listen when you lay out the rules, let it bubble up. “Escalate” sounds so serious — “I’ll have to escalate this to my superior”; “bubble up” sounds more like “hey, this is something I don’t think I should deal with because of my level of authority, so can you help me out?”

I imagine it’s something that, similar to “go from there”, is going to get really tiresome after a while. But right now, it still seems like a useful phrase that I can use in conversation.

Good to know.

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what to do when you get a no-motion September 23, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Definition, Economic Downturn.
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The short answer? Grin and bear it, and be happy you’re still employed.

From Urban Dictionary:

1. A promotion without a raise or bonus.

2. During the recession of 2009, employers have embarked on a new trend of giving promotions to employees (e.g. by adding more responsibility to their current position or new job title) but not giving the employee any monetary compensation for it (e.g. no raise, no bonus).

Looks like lots of people got no-motions and are still trying to figure out how to finish everything in one day. (CC-licensed photo by loumurphy)

Looks like lots of people got no-motions and are still trying to figure out how to finish everything in one day. (CC-licensed photo by loumurphy)

This began at CorporateSpeak in early 2009, after employees older than 55 with more than 20 years service were offered the option to take buyouts — one week of pay for every year employed, with insurance ending when the pay ended. Nine out of the ten eligible employees took the buyouts. They included:

Rena from accounting — she was in charge of all the money coming in and going out. Not an accountant or a comptroller; more like a glorified records clerk. But if you needed anything involving money, you went to Rena and she made sure things were done correctly. Andy and Leland both got no-motions to take over Rena’s duties.

Arthur from archives — in this economic climate, we really couldn’t afford someone whose sole job it was to keep track of the decades of archived print, video, photography, audio, and web stuff we’d done. Arthur knew that and took the buyout, which was too bad, because Arthur also coordinated talent appearances — ie, hiring people to pose in photographs or act on video — and that wasn’t part of his job description. It was just something he’d been doing for about ten years because it needed to be done. A combination of Raven, Rick, Marc, and Danny received various no-motions to take over Arthur’s tasks. Raven by far has it worst; she is the final word when it comes to the library, she works an odd shift, she still has to do mockups and photography (what she was hired to do), and when someone can’t find something in the library, she has to figure out where it went.

Dan the receptionist — after 30 years, it was determined that paying a full-time receptionist was no longer necessary. Dan took the buyout. Now Gina has received a no-motion; where Dan worked 8:30 to 5:30 — our regular business hours — Gina works 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Her computer was moved to the front desk, but if she needs to check her files, she has to get someone to cover the front desk so she can go up to her old cubicle and get what she needs. Needless to say her productivity has suffered. Oh, and as for 3:00 to 6:00, we’ve brought in a part-timer, because, you know, that’s a great idea.

But what could Andy, Leland, Raven, Rick, Marc, Danny, and Gina do? Say no? Of course not! Because they need their jobs. They have families to support and bills to pay. They have to eat.

Welcome to the new workplace, where people leave and are halfheartedly replaced by others who don’t have time to do their own jobs, let alone the jobs of others — and woe betide them if they claim overtime for doing what they were told to do.

The worst part of all of this is that it’s not going to change back. Once the economy rights itself and we go from bust to boom, we’re going to be much more careful as a business culture and we’re not going to hire anyone new — not a new archivist, not a new receptionist, not a new money specialist. The seven people above are going to keep doing what they’re doing, and the company as a whole is going to suffer. Just like your company is when it happens to the people around you.

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you must work now September 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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A while back I wrote about new moms and how difficult it is to get back into the swing of things at work because of all the mom stuff they have to do. Well, I apparently didn’t broaden my scope far enough because it’s so easy to avoid work these days that you don’t even have to try.

I certainly don’t.

best employees first September 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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Y’know, I’ve never heard anyone actually come out and admit that, but now that Scott Adams has, things are starting to make a lot more sense to me when I see e-mails that read “we’re pleased and lucky to have John Smith join our team from HugeCompany, where he was marketing director for 23 years.” Now I really know what that means.